Caregiving in Texas: A ‘Thank You’ for an Often Thankless Role

Caregiving is a highly stressful and sometimes emotional experience, and a new report details just how complex caregiving duties can be. Photo: Adobe Stock

by Mary Schuermann Kuhlman

AUSTIN, Texas – In Texas, 3.4 million people are caregivers, a role they are thrust into whether they choose it or not. And new data quantifies the value of their efforts.

According to AARP, Texas caregivers provided $35 billion worth of unpaid care in 2017.

Rose Puente of San Antonio has been a caregiver for both her parents, her aunt, her son and her husband. She says while it’s a rewarding job, caregiving is a highly stressful and sometimes emotional experience.

“They all get to a point where they lose patience and I happen to be the one that kind of gets the brunt of that,” she says. “But it doesn’t take long for them to say, ‘Thank you for what you’ve done, I’m sorry that I did that.’”

According to the Valuing the Invaluable report, family caregivers come from every age, racial and socioeconomic group, and 60% are balancing their caregiving duties with a paid job elsewhere.

November is Family Caregivers Month.

The report also reveals the complex responsibilities of a caregiver, which include patient advocacy, financial management, and assisting in daily living activities.

According to Amanda Fredriksen, associate state director of advocacy and outreach at AARP Texas, caregivers also are becoming increasingly responsible for complex medical tasks, such as wound care and medication management.

“That’s stressful and that’s taxing and caregivers need support,” she stresses. “They need help and training and they need to be able to ask questions of the professionals so that they can do right by their care recipients.”

Texas lawmakers passed the CARE Act in 2017, which is helping to support family caregivers when their loved one is admitted to the hospital. This year, they provided funding for respite programs for caregivers.

Puente says she values any ‘alone time’ she can get.

“It’s important to take care of yourself,” she explains. “It’s important to know how to just take an hour to two hours a week, that’s what I look for. Just to be able to say, ‘I need to take care of myself so I can take care of them.’”

The report notes that increasing demand for caregivers and shrinking families will make caregiving even more difficult in the years to come.

There were about seven potential family caregivers for every person age 80-plus in 2010. By the year 2030 that number could potentially be cut in half.

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